Rosslyn Chapel

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Rosslyn Chapel is a Scottish medieval church tenuously (and probably inaccurately) linked with the Knights Templar and Holy Grail mythology.

The chapel is located in the village of Roslin (sometimes Rosslyn or Roslyn) a few miles outside Edinburgh. Roslin is also home to the Roslin Institute (part of the University of Edinburgh), which produced the first animal to be successfully cloned from an adult somatic cell, Dolly the Sheep, in 1996.

Origins and myths[edit]

Rosslyn Chapel was founded by William Sinclair (or St Clair) close to Roslin Castle, home of the Sinclair family, and building commenced in 1456.

The most prominent myth associated with the chapel is the Knight Templar/Holy Grail/Masonic nonsense. It roughly goes along the lines of:

  • William Sinclair was a Knight Templar (he wasn't).
  • The chapel was modelled on Solomon's Temple and was built to contain the greatest treasures of the Templars, including the Holy Grail (it wasn’t).
  • William Sinclair founded the Masonic Movement in Scotland to protect these treasures (he didn't, although a descendent, another William Sinclair was first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland many centuries later).

Other theories include that the Sinclair (St Clair) family are descendants of Jesus.[1] Of course.

As you can imagine the reaction of professional historians is basically "why do people believe all this crap?".[2]

There are two other sites in the east of Scotland with supposed Templar connections: the village of Temple in MidlothianWikipedia's W.svg and the Isle of MayWikipedia's W.svg at the mouth of the Firth of Forth. They are sometimes considered to find a mystical triangle, at the centre of which is a tiny island called The Lamb, which some (e.g. Uri Geller) claim has connections with ancient Egyptian royalty.[3][4] This can be taken as seriously as anything else Uri Geller has ever said.

The Da Vinci Code connection[edit]

Unsurprisingly, the myths connecting Rosslyn Chapel to the Holy Grail and the Knights Templar were plundered and promoted by conspiracy theory-loving thriller novelist Dan Brown, who featured a, hmm, imaginative portrayal of the chapel's role in his best-selling book The Da Vinci Code (2003).

Following the success of the novel, and especially the 2006 Hollywood movie adaptation, which included climactic scenes filmed on location at the chapel, numbers of visitors at the chapel shot up,[5] and enough money was passing through the tills at the ticket office and gift shop to continue funding much-needed repairs, as well as expansion of tourist facilities at the site.

The Da Vinci Code phenomenon has also prompted all kinds of tie-in woo, connecting Rosslyn Chapel to medieval mysticism and magic in one way or another. A few examples include the following:

(Grand)children of the Corn[edit]

Much of the interior of Rosslyn Chapel is adorned with elaborate stonework. In addition to a horned Moses[8], it contains carvings that look somewhat like ears of corn.[9]

According to some sources[10], this is because William Sinclair's grandfather, Henry Sinclair, travelled to Nova Scotia in 1398 with a Venetian navigator and a Norse crew (his title of Earl of Orkney made him a vassal of the King of Norway) . And presumably brought back some corn (or at least a description thereof).

This may or may not have had something to do with hiding the Holy Grail.[11]

External links[edit]


  1. Holy Blood, Holy Grail of course, as noted in Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail. Which is nonfiction.
  2. Hargraves, Neil. "Rosslyn and the Grail Myths"., Scottish government website. Retrieved 9 Feb 2013. 
  3. Why I Bought Lamb Island,
  4. Uri Geller looks to excavate Forth's Lamb Island in treasure hunt, The Scotsman, 8 March 2010
  5. Leeman, Sue. "Da Vinci Code tourists flock to Scottish chapel". Associated Press / 
  6. The Head Of God: The Lost Treasure of the Templars, Keith Laidler, 2nd edition, Phoenix, 2005, ISBN-13: 978-0752826899
  7. Christ's head 'in Scottish chapel', BBC, 11 Aug 1998
  8. [1] Moses with horns
  9. [2] "Corn"
  10. [3]
  11. [4] Holy Grail Across the Atlantic